Form 944 Guide: Federal Tax Return for Small Businesses

Form 944 Filling Guide | Completing Form 944 | Inkle

As a small business proprietor, among your numerous duties is to guarantee adherence to all relevant tax regulations. This encompasses submitting diverse tax documents, such as Form 944 and the Employer's Annual Federal Tax Return. 

Our newest blog will delve into the essence of Form 944, its filing requirements, the submission process, the filing timeline, potential pitfalls to steer clear of, troubleshooting steps for encountered issues, and a concluding summary.

Form 944 is a dedicated tax document tailored for small businesses, serving as a means for employers to disclose their annual Social Security and Medicare tax obligations. This form is submitted every year, with the deadline set for the last day of the month succeeding the conclusion of the calendar year.

When completing Form 944, employers must provide details on various elements, including gross wages/tips, wages subject to withholding, total Social Security/Medicare taxes, and any other taxes owed for the entire year. Furthermore, employers must incorporate relevant adjustments for preceding periods, as applicable.

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Who Needs to File Form 944?

  • Employers who are required to pay Social Security, Medicare, or Railroad Retirement taxes.
  • Estimated tax liability for the year is less than $1,000.

Inclusive Entities:

  • Employers with one or more employees.
  • Self-employed individuals.
  • Agricultural employers.

Filing Obligation: Mandatory for eligible employers, even if no taxes are owed for the year.

Eligible Small Businesses: Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations may qualify for Form 944.

Note: Businesses needing more clarification about their filing requirement should consult a tax professional or check the IRS website for more information.

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Guide on Filing Form 944

Step 1: Collect Your Information

Part 1: Business Details

  • Business name, address, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).
  • Specify your business entity type (e.g., sole proprietorship or corporation).
  • Provide contact details for the person overseeing payroll taxes.
Part 1: Business Details
Part 1: Business Details

Part 2: Reporting Taxes and Deposits

In this section, you are tasked with detailing the total annual wages disbursed to employees and the corresponding amounts withheld for federal income tax, Social Security, and Medicare. Additionally, record any advanced earned income credit (AEIC) payments extended to employees throughout the year.

Part 2: Reporting Taxes and Deposits

Part 3: Tax and Deposit Adjustments

In this section, document any adjustments to your taxes and deposits throughout the year. This encompasses corrections to prior tax returns or adjustments initiated by the IRS.

Part 3: Tax and Deposit Adjustments

Part 4: Reporting Previous Year's Tax and Payments

In this section, disclose any tax liability from the preceding year and outline payments made toward settling that liability during the current year.

Part 4: Reporting Previous Year's Tax and Payments

Part 5: Determining Refund or Balance Due

Within this section, compute whether there is an outstanding tax balance or if a refund is owed. In the event of additional taxes owed, include the payment along with the form. If a refund is due, the option to apply it to the subsequent year's tax liability or request a refund check is available.

Part 5: Determining Refund or Balance Due

Step 2: Form Completion

Commence the process of filling out Form 944 once all essential information is gathered.

Step 3: Submission and Payment

  • After completing Form 944, please submit it to the IRS with any necessary payments.
  • Electronic filing is an option, utilizing either the IRS e-file system or a third-party provider.
  • For those opting to file by mail, ensure the inclusion of any due payments with the form.

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Submitting Form 944

For the optimal submission of Form 944, the IRS advises electronic filing, with detailed information available at IRS.gov/EmploymentEfile. 

Alternatively, if you opt for a paper return, the mailing address hinges on whether a payment accompanies the form. Consult the table below to identify the correct mailing address based on your location.

Form 944 Mailing Locations

US State Without Payment With Payment
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wyoming Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Ogden, UT 84201-0044 Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 932100, Louisville, KY 40293-2100
Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Kansas City, MO 64999-0044 Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 806532, Cincinnati, OH 45280-6532
No legal residence or principal place of business in any state Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 409101, Ogden, UT 84409 Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 932100, Louisville, KY 40293-2100
Special filing address for exempt organizations; federal, state, and local governmental entities; and Indian tribal governmental entities, regardless of location Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service, Ogden, UT 84201-0044 Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 932100, Louisville, KY 40293-2100

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Form 944 Filing Deadline

Form 944 is an annual tax document, with a filing deadline set for January 31 of the subsequent year. To illustrate, the 2023 tax year's Form 944 deadline is January 31, 2024.

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Authorised Signatories for Form 944

The designated signatory for Form 944 varies based on the type of business entity:

  • Sole Proprietorship: The individual/person who owns the business.
  • Corporation (including an LLC treated as a corporation): The president, vice president, or another principal officer.
  • Partnership (including an LLC treated as a partnership)/ Unincorporated Organisation: A duly authorised partner, member, or officer.
  • Single-Member LLC Treated as a Disregarded Entity for Federal Tax Purposes: The owner of the LLC or a principal officer duly authorised to sign.
  • Trust or Estate: The fiduciary.

Additionally, Form 944 may be signed by a duly authorised agent of the taxpayer with a valid power of attorney.

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Payment Process for FICA and Income Withholding Taxes on Form 944

Calculate Your Tax Obligation

  • Determine the amount of FICA and income tax withholding tax owed based on the information provided on Form 944.

Choose a Payment Method

  • Opt for a check or electronic payment through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).

Check Payment Instructions

  • If paying by check, make it payable to "United States Treasury."
  • Write down your business name, EIN, and "Form 944" on the memo line.
  • Include the payment voucher from the instructions for Form 944 with your check.

Electronic Payment (EFTPS) Instructions

  • Enroll in the EFTPS system if you opt for electronic payment.
  • Provide your business name, EIN, and the payment amount.
  • Make payments online or by phone once enrolled.

Timely Payment

  • Ensure on-time payment to evade penalties and interest charges.
  • The deadline for Form 944, payment of FICA, and income tax withholding taxes is January 31 each year.

Record-keeping

  • Maintain a record of your payment.
  • For check payments, retain a copy of the check and payment voucher.
  • For electronic payments, print or save a copy of the payment confirmation.

Submission

  • Send your completed Form 944 and payment to the address specified.

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Preventative Measures for Common Filing Errors

To ensure a smooth filing process for Form 944, be vigilant about avoiding these common mistakes:

Timely Submission and Payment: Avoid the pitfalls of late filing or incorrect tax payments.

Comprehensive Form Completion: Include all required information on the form to prevent omissions.

Accurate Figures and Calculations: Double-check and verify figures and calculations to eliminate inaccuracies.

Maintain Precise Records: Prevent errors by keeping meticulous records of wages and taxes withheld.

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Correcting Mistakes on Form 944

Identify the Mistake

  • Pinpoint the nature of the mistake, whether it's mathematical, incorrect information, or a missing entry.

File an Amended Form 944

  • If you uncover an error post-filing, complete Form 944-X, the "Adjusted Employer's Annual Federal Tax Return."
  • Provide accurate information on the amended form, clearly specifying the corrected lines, and explain the error.
  • Attach any necessary documentation supporting the correction.

Submit Amended Form 944

  • Mail the completed Form 944-X to the IRS using the address provided in the form's instructions.
  • Ensure the inclusion of any payment due resulting from the correction.

Record-keeping

  • Retain a copy of the amended Form 944-X and all supporting documentation for your records.

Prompt Payment of Additional Taxes

  • If the correction leads to additional taxes, make the payment promptly to avoid penalties and interest charges.

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Common Concerns in Form 944 Filing

  1. Inaccurate or Incomplete Information: Providing incorrect or incomplete details may lead to processing delays or penalties. 
  2. Incorrect Calculations: Errors in tax or deposit calculations can result in underpayment or overpayment. Double-checking all calculations is essential to avoid such discrepancies.
  3. Late Filing or Payment: Please complete all deadlines for filing or tax payments to avoid penalties and interest charges. Staying aware of due dates and meeting all deadlines is imperative.
  4. Employee Misclassification: Misclassifying employees as independent contractors may lead to tax liability issues. Correctly classifying workers and understanding the criteria for employee status is vital.
  5. Failure to Report Tips: Employers must report tips received by employees. 

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Distinguishing Between Form 944 and Form 940

Amidst the array of IRS forms, distinguishing between them can be challenging. Both Forms 940 and 944 shares the commonality of being filed annually, addressing payroll taxes owed to the federal government.

Yet, their divergence lies in their focus:

  • Form 940 delineates an employer's Federal Unemployment (FUTA) tax liability—an obligation solely borne by the employer.
  • Form 944, on the other hand, centres around employee income tax withholding and FICA taxes, which both the employer and the employee jointly share.

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Distinguishing Between Form 944 and Form 941

Drawing distinctions between Form 944 and Form 941 can be intricate due to their striking resemblance. Both forms serve the purpose of reporting FICA and income tax withholdings to the IRS. The key disparity lies in your small business's total income and FICA tax obligations throughout the year.

While most U.S. employers utilise Form 941 for quarterly reporting, small businesses with an annual tax liability below $1,000, having secured approval from the IRS to file Form 944, can opt for this annual filing alternative. The primary distinction lies in the filing frequency, as Form 944 is completed on an annual basis.

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Is it necessary to submit Form 944 if I don't have any employees?

Yes, you are required to file Form 944 if the IRS has provided written notification mandating its submission, irrespective of whether you have employees or not. In such instances, complete the form to the best of your ability, disregarding sections related to withheld wages if they do not apply.

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Simplified Breakdown of Form 944 Calculations

Form 944 encompasses several tax calculations, contributing to a somewhat intricate overall formula. Here, we've segmented it into three parts for clarity.

Income Tax Withholding Calculation

  • Formula: [Employee's tax rate] x [total wages paid for the year].
  • For instance, if an employee, filing as single, earns $3,000 annually at a 10% tax rate, the calculated income tax is 10% x $3,000 = $300.

Social Security Tax Calculation

  • Formula: [12.4% total Social Security tax rate] x [# of employees] x [taxable wages paid].
  • Using the earlier example with a single employee and taxable wages of $3,000, the Social Security tax owed is 12.4% x 1 employee x $3,000 = $372.

Medicare Tax Liability Calculation

  • Formula: [2.9% total Medicare tax rate] x [total taxable wages paid].
  • Following the example, the Medicare taxes amount to 2.9% x $3,000 taxable wages paid = $87.

It's important to note that "taxable wages" refer to wages subject to the specific tax, and adjustments due to benefits and deductions made through payroll can influence these amounts.

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Conclusion

Form 944 is a crucial tax document that small employers must submit to report and settle their yearly federal income, Social Security, and Medicare taxes. 

By adhering to the steps in this guide and steering clear of common errors, you can guarantee accurate tax filing, preventing potential penalties or fines. 

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